Ten Essential Skills For Future CFOs

The future environment that Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) will operate in will be different. It will be a re-balanced global economy from west to east, faster growing emerging markets, the
30 Sep 2014 13:11
Ten Essential Skills For Future CFOs
Fiji Airways Fijiana 7s team during the France Sevens in Toulouse. Photo: World Rugby

The future environment that Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) will operate in will be different.

It will be a re-balanced global economy from west to east, faster growing emerging markets, the rise of shared services, outsourcing and increasingly global business.

There will also be more business risk, wider regulatory challenges, along with more scrutiny and rapid changes in technology

The changing business environment provides huge challenges for future CFOs. Mohammed Sajid Khan, head of International Development, ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) shares the top ten ‘must-have’ skills of CFOs of the future, basis the research conducted by ACCA with 750 CFOs around the world.

Business sense

Future CFOs will still need a strong financial understanding. They should also target career experiences that provide them with an understanding of the whole business. It is critical that CFOs are able to ask the right questions –which comes from experience gained across multiple finance roles.

Planning & execution

Strategy formulation and execution was identified as the most important area in which future CFOs have experience. Over the next decade the business landscape will be re-shaped by market volatility, globalisation and transformational innovation. CFOs should seek greater mobility in and out of the finance organisation, building the commercial qualities needed, while building internal relationships.


How organisations gather and use data to drive better decision making is the next “big opportunity” for tomorrow’s finance team. The survey suggests that current CFOs rate financial insight and analysis as the second most important area in which future CFOs need to have career experience. Future CFOs should plan and actively seek out analytics roles, so they understand its value and application.


Risk experience is a must-have on the CV of future CFOs. That’s because future CFOs will operate in a business environment that’s high risk and where there are emerging risks such as online reputational risk or cyber risk.


Merger and acquisition activity was identified as the fourth most important area of experience for future CFOs. While business growth will be organic, much is likely to be through acquisition and merger and other forms of business tie-ups. This will help in tapping into the already established businesses, to ease market entry and leverage expertise and market knowledge.

Relationship management

The future CFO needs to be customer savvy and take on roles which provide greater customer understanding. The range of stakeholders with whom future CFOs will have to engage will be significant.


Strong leadership qualities will be essential, particularly as finance becomes more diverse. Experience in transformation and change management for future finance leaders will also be a priority, as will effective communication skills as they provide information to different stakeholder groups.


Future CFOs will face more regulation and will need to be confident about operating in a regulated environment.

Technical know-how

Tomorrow’s CFOs need to be technologically adept and understand the significant role technology can play in driving better finance delivery. They should also target roles which develop and utilise their technology understanding.


The future CFOs will need to manage the different demands between mature and emerging markets and align their finance strategies accordingly. They will need to be adept at working in global business environment, leading finance teams which are diverse and virtual, across mature and emerging markets.



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